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Ouseley, William (1767-1842) (DNB00)


OUSELEY, Sir WILLIAM (1767–1842), orientalist, born in Monmouthshire in 1767, was son of Captain Ralph Ouseley, the son of William Ouseley (1693-1705) of Dunblane Castle, co. Galway, by his first wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Holland of Limerick. His brother Gore is separately noticed. William was educated privately until 1787, when he went to Paris to study, but in the following year became a comet in the 8th regiment of dragoons. His heart was not in his profession, however, and, after serving in the 1794 campaign under the Duke of York, he sold out and went to Leyden to resume the oriental, and especially Persian, studies which had already fascinated him during his residence at Paris. In 1795 he published his 'Persian Miscellanies: an Essay to facilitate the Reading of Persian Manuscripts ... with engraved Specimens,' &c., which he dedicated to Lord Moira (afterwards Marquis of Hastings). It is a useful treatise on the various styles of Persian handwriting, enriched with many illustrations of manuscripts, and numerous notes proving considerable research. On his return to England in 1796 he was gazetted major in Lord Ayr's regiment of dragoons stationed at Carlisle, and there he married, on 6 March 1796, Julia, daughter of Lieutenant-colonel John Irving, and left the army for good. Soon afterwards he took up his residence at Crickhowell, Brecknockshire, whence he dated a letter, 6 Dec. 1801, to the Earl of Chichester (Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 33108, fol. 425), in which he dwelt on his ambition to become an envoy to some eastern court, and meanwhile asked the earl to use his influence in procuring a government subsidy and countenance for a proposed journey to Persia, He had already received in 1797 the honorary degree of LL.D. at Trinity College, Dublin, and that of Ph.D. from the university of Rostock, and Lord Cornwallis, the viceroy of Ireland, had knighted him in 1800. The Persian journey did not come to pass till 1810, when Sir William accompanied in the capacity of private secretary his brother. Sir Gore Ouseley, on his mission to the shah of Persia. By way of preparation for his eastern observations, he had lived some months in 1810 in the house of the Persian envoy, Mirza Abul-Hasan, at London, where he learned to speak Persian. They started from Portsmouth on H.M.S. Lion, 64, on 18 July 1810, and were absent in India and Persia for three years. The best known record of the mission is that of James Justinian Morier [q. v.], the secretary of embassy; but Sir William Ouseley published his own account, 'Travels in various Countries of the East, more particularly Persia,' in three volumes 4to, 1819, 1821, 1823 (printed for the author by Henry Hughes, Brecknock). The title-page states that the author was knt., LL.D., honorary fellow of the Royal Societies of Edinburgh, Göttingen, and Amsterdam, Ph.D. of Rostock, and member of the Asiatic Society of Calcutta. The dates of the dedications, &c., show that he still resided at Crickhowell. His valuable collection of Persian manuscripts was offered for sale, and the catalogue, written by himself and printed in 1831, contains notices of 724 manuscripts. He died at Boulogne in September 1842, leaving Sir William Gore Ouseley [q. v.], five other sons, and three daughters.

Besides the works already noticed, Ouseley published: 'Oriental Collections,' 3 vols. 1797-9; an 'Epitome of the Ancient History of Persia, extracted firom the Jehan Ara’ of Ahmad el-Kazwini, the author of the ‘Nigaristân,’ 1799; a translation of Ibn-Haukal's ‘Geography,’ 1800, of the ‘Bakhatiyar Nâma,’ 1801 (new and revised edition by W. A. Clouston, 1883); ‘Observations on Coins,’ &c., 1801, and a ‘Critical Essay,’ 1832. He also edited Burckhardt’s ‘Works,’ and contributed extensively to the ‘Transactions’ of the Royal Society of Literature.

[Authorities cited above; Encylopædia Britannica, ninth ed. s.v.; Hommes Vivants, s.v., article signed ‘Z;’ Brit. Mus. Cat.; Burke's Baronetage.]

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